L'heureux desivetaux

(Happy Des Ivetaux)

Attributed to:
Saint-Aubin, Charles-Germain de (b.1721, d.1786)
Attributed to Style A
c 1740-c 1775 {nd}
Place of Production:
Paris, France
watercolour and ink on paper
Accession number:
One of a set, see others


Brief Description:

A bizarrely dressed figure, depicted in profile, stands at the centre of the page facing left. He wears a mask, with an animal-like snout. Over his head he wears a piece of red, yellow and white striped cloth from which sprout two red plumes. They unfurl in elegant curls behind him. His rotund body is clothed in a richly decorated sleeveless garment with red floral motifs on a white ground with yellow trimmings. The long trousers that he wears beneath the robe are ragged and ripped and his shoes are in disrepair. His left shoe is all but worn away. Tucked into his belt is a sword with a round pommel and a bagpipe or musette. Its blowpipe, which he holds in his left hand, is inserted into the mask’s extended snout.

Curatorial Commentary

The French libertine poet, Nicolas Vauquelin des Yvetaux was renowned for his eccentric dress. After exile from court, where he had tutored the young Louis XIII, he lived for most of the first half of the seventeenth century on the outer fringes of the Faubourg Saint-Germain in Paris, where his hedonism led to charges of atheism. The chroniclers Tallémant des Réaux and Vigneul-Marville both recount that he and his mistress dressed up as shepherds and conducted a pastoral masquerade through their gardens, leading flocks of imaginary sheep. In this drawing, Des Yveteux is perhaps himself a sheep.

Des Iveteaux was author of the sonnet ‘Avecques mon amour naît l’amour de changer’, published in 1606. Its first stanza reads: “Avecques mon amour naît l'amour de changer. / J'en aime une au matin ; l'autre au soir me possède. / Premier qu'avoir le mal, je cherche le remède, / N'attendant être pris pour me désengager” (‘With my love is born the love of change. / I love one in the morning; in the evening another possesses me. / I search the remedy before the malady / Nor do I wait to be taken before freeing myself’). Though love seemingly has its own remedy, the caption on the opposing page (675.18) states ‘there is no remedy for fear’ (“on ne guerit pas de la peur”). The drawing may also refer back to 675.5 where a character declares that she is both sickness and remedy.

The animal face of the figure recalls Charles Le Brun’s physiognomic study of the sheep and sheep-man from his well-known “Conférence sur l’expression générale et particulière” (1668). The size of the eye and the line of the nostril also make it resemble Le Brun’s study of the camel and camel-man - in which case the character’s striped headdress here may be intended to evoke Arabian dress. Le Brun’s catalogue of expressions are also reflected in the drawing on the facing page (675.18). However, it is unclear if or how the artist knew Le Brun's drawings comparing animals and men. Several editions of the “Conférence” were published during the late seventeenth- and eighteenth-century, including, for example, editions by Sébastian Le Clerc (1696) and Bernard Picart (1698). These allowed Le Brun’s images of the passions to be widely diffused among artists and actors throughout the century (Montagu, 1994), but they did not include reproductions of Le Brun's animal drawings. However, the animal drawings were popular in Le Brun's own day and they are among the few didactic drawings that he had engraved (Montagu, 1994, p. 20). Although they were not widely known until their publication in 1806, the Saint-Aubin brothers may well have had access to the Cabinet du Roi at the Louvre, where Le Brun's drawings were kept and which academicians and many other artists and amateurs were able to visit.

Festive traditions and dressing up are also evoked in the inscription at the top of the page, though in an obscure manner. The Coqueluchiers (also known as “Conards”) were a Renaissance festive society based in Rouen involved in the organisation of carnival, feasts of fools and other events. The Day of the Holy Innocents was a frequent festive day for the ceremonies organised by such groups, though their main festivities were focussed on Rogations Day, according to the “Encyclopédie” (1772 edn, iii, pp. 801-2; cf. Reid, 2001).

This drawing is in Style A, attributed to the principal author of the “Livre de Caricatures”, Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin. Style A displays a childish and naïve aesthetic and sometimes subject matter, and is characterised by crispness of execution, clear outlines and smooth application of colour. It is dominant in the early part of the book, from 675.3 to around 675.160. The opening inscription (675.1a) claims that the book was acquired from booksellers on the Paris quays in 1740 already containing drawings in another hand. The inscription states that ‘my friends put captions [underneath the drawings] and got me to continue this miscellany of follies’ (“mes amis y mirent des légendes et m’engagerent à continuer ce melange de folies”). This may be a tall story, explicable by Charles-Germain’s reluctance to admit authorship of the work. Charles-Germain was a versatile artist, and the possibility that he was responsible for the entire process in these initial drawings cannot be ruled out. In the drawings in the book not in Style A, Charles-Germain first made graphite sketches in much the same way. However it is possible that in the sections of the book dominated by Style A, Charles-Germain confined himself to working up existing graphite drawings, as well as adding details and also, with his friends’ assistance as he describes, the captions.

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
187 x 132
L'heureux desivetaux
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, below image, in ink

Coqueluchiers de Roüen, allant chanter l'office de / la mere folle dans la cathedralle, le jour des innocens
Inscribed by Charles-Germain de Saint-Aubin, top, in ink

Top right corner, in ink
Translation of inscription
Happy Des Ivetaux
Coqueluchiers of Rouen going to sing the office of the Mère folle in the cathedral on the day of the Holy Innocents.


Part of:
Livre de Caricatures tant bonnes que mauvaises. 675.1-389
Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust)
Bequest of James de Rothschild, 1957



Colin Jones, Emily Richardson; Archaeology and materiality; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 31-53; p. 50n
Katie Scott; Saint-Aubin's jokes and their relation to...; Colin Jones, Juliet Carey, Emily Richardson, The Saint-Aubin Livre de caricatures: drawing satire in eighteenth-century Paris, Oxford, SVEC, 2012; 349-403; p. 381n

Related literature

Charles Le Brun; Conférence de M. Le Brun,...sur l'expression générale et particulière; Paris; 1698
Vigneul-Marville (pseud.); Mélanges d'histoire et de littérature recueillis par M. de V.-M.; Paris; A. Besoigne; 1699-1701. vol. i, pp.147-151
Jean-Bénigne Lucotte, seigneur du Tilliot; Mémoire pour servir l'histoire de la fête des foux qui se fait autrefois dans plusieurs églises; Lausanne, Geneva; [n. pub.]; 1751
Gédéon Tallement des Réaux, Louis-Jean-Nicolas Monmerqué; Les Historiettes; Paris; J. Techener; 1862. vol. i, p. 237
Noël Taillepied; Les Antiquités et singularités de la ville de Rouen [1587]; Rouen; Léon Gy; 1901. p. 42
Denis Diderot, Jean d' Alembert; Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences des Arts et des Metiers, xxxv vols [Paris: 1751-80]; Paris; Pergamon Press; 1969. Conards ou Cornards, in vol. iii (1772), pp. 801-2; Fête des Fous, vol. vi (1761), pp. 573-576; Mère Folle, vol. x (1765), pp. 380-82
Jennifer Montagu; The Expression of the Passions: the Origin and Influence of Charles Le Brun's "Conférence sur l'expression générale et particulière"; New Haven; Yale University Press; 1994
Dylan Reid, Carnival in Rouen: a history of the Abbaye des Conards, Sixteenth Century Journal, xxxii, 2001, 1027-1055

Indexed terms